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Jul 09 2013

A Memorable, Sometimes Terrifying, Always Exhilirating, and Frequently Funny Trip

I’m home, alive, which was in doubt a few times during this whirlwind overnight to Oregon. First off, Fourth of July holiday traffic. Meaning folks who would do things like look me in the eye, wait until I was a few yards away, and pull out in front of me. Or who would decide they wanted my lane and wanted it now, regardless of the fact I happened to be occupying the space they wanted. But I’m a watchful driver most of the time, and my brakes are excellent, and the car understands how to stop or swerve quickly, so those incidents merely served as spice.

So forget traffic. Let’s get down to bidness: geogallivanting with Anne, Chris, and Lockwood!

This exchange happened on Twitter because of it:

I swear I did feel the ground tremble a time or two...

I swear I did feel the ground tremble a time or two…

(Text for those whose devices won’t read pics: Chris tweeted, “Geobloggers in their natural habitat: @lockwooddewitt, @highlyanne, me & @Dhunterauthor, with 2 of the 3 Sisters. pic.twitter.com/7PRRk2v09s” and Jacquelyn Gill tweeted back, “That’s awesome! I’m surprised that didn’t trigger an earthquake or something.” Surprises me, too!)

This trip started with me driving down to Oregon at 4:30 in the ay-em, which wasn’t as brutal as it might sound. Few folk on the road, nicely overcast most of the way, cool and lovely. So I was still nice and fresh when I arrived, and discovered Chris and Anne’s rental car had decided to have bits fall off. My car rather comfortably seats four, though, so that was no problem at all. In we piled, and off to McKenzie Pass we went.

Firstly, we stopped at Clear Lake. Total madhouse. It seemed like everyone in Oregon had decided to visit the spot, and we only got a reasonable parking space by a minor miracle. But it was lovely. And people being there meant people doing interesting things, like swimming in water cold enough to cause most people to dip in a single toe and say, “Yeah, it’s not too JESUS FUCK THIS WATER IS FUCKING COLD!” and remove said digit with alacrity. Not this dude:

Kayaking person with dude swimming alongside in nothing but bathing trunks and cap. Definition of hardcore, people.

Kayaking person with dude swimming alongside in nothing but bathing trunks and cap. Definition of hardcore, people.

So that was entertaining. Then the scuba people swam by, and you get to see just how clear Clear Lake is.

Scuba divers in Clear Lake, which is clear enough for you to clearly see scuba divers in it.

Scuba divers in Clear Lake, which is clear enough for you to clearly see scuba divers in it.

The water was also clear enough for the near one to notice me photographing them. That was amusing.

I got a lovely shot of Anne and Chris there.

Anne Jefferson, Chris Rowan, and Clear Lake.

Anne Jefferson, Chris Rowan, and Clear Lake.

I could go on about them until the next century. Keep in mind that these are the two geobloggers who got me back into reading about geology in the first place, as I’d stumbled across them on ScienceBlogs back in the day. I admired them from afar and learned an amazing amount of geology from them. Then, when I became a geoblogger my own self, they became two of my most important mentors. Chris got me published in Open Lab, and Anne is the reason why I have a blog at SciAm. I owe them very nearly my entire professional writer trajectory. Lockwood makes the third most influential person, and here we were, all on the same trip, with Anne taking us through her area of study for her PhD, and I pretty much just shut my mouth, opened my ears, and gazed at them with big admiring puppy dog eyes.

They’re two of the sweetest people in the world, by the way. Just amazing on all fronts.

After Clear Lake, we visited one or two other places Lockwood and I have been before along the McKenzie River, but with Anne’s eyes, we saw it a whole different way. And there were places we went that are not only off the beaten path, but have no path beaten to them because they’re super-sekrit study areas, and I cannot divulge their location even under torture.

Anne reminding me that this location is verrboten.

Anne reminding me that this location is verrboten.

Okay, there was only one of those places, but it was memorable. Guarded by yellowjackets, in fact, and quite well. One of them took particular offense to me stopping near the nest, which the little buggers had camouflaged well, and let me know by stinging me in the butt. And as I was trying to figure out where this sudden pinpoint of burning pain was coming from, it decided my ankles were delectable, and went at both of them. You can imagine the howling and cursing that ensued. Luckily, I was the only person who got stung (five times!), and it left me alone once I went a few feet up the hill. We didn’t have to kill a poor bugger who was just guarding the old homestead. And yes, that was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had, but it was localized, I’m not allergic, and I knew it would eventually go away. It’s just that I could no longer wear regular shoes. Argh.

I wish I could’ve ripped them off then and there, but we still had forest and ferns to navigate on the way back to the car. The ferns were bloody ginormous. Some of them were nearly over our heads.

Moi and Anne bushwhacking through enormous ferns. Image courtesy of Lockwood.

Moi and Anne bushwhacking through enormous ferns. Image courtesy of Lockwood.

Once I’d run a sanitizing wipe and poured some water over my wounds, then changed to flip-flops, I was ready to go. A few stupid stings weren’t going to stop me. And besides, everybody in the group who’d been tormented by an angry yellowjacket said the pain didn’t last long. Onward!

We drove up the cirque to McKenzie Pass. This is a hair-raising road, practically vertical in places, with plenty of blind switchbacks that suggest you take them at 15 mph. I’ve driven it enough times now that I was sort of ho-hum about it, whereas in the past, there’s been a constant litany of we’regonnadie, we’regonnadie running through my head. And I grew up with Oak Creek Canyon, mind, so I’m used to steep curvy things. We made it to the top without squishing a biker or falling down the cliff, which was very nice, and went to my favorite observatory ever.

Chris, Anne, and Lockwood at Dee Wright Observatory.

Chris, Anne, and Lockwood at Dee Wright Observatory.

I kind of lagged behind so I could take ambush shots. I mean, just too cool, having three of my heroes in one place. This is them gazing at Black Crater on the way up to the Observatory. At the top, a kind soul got all four of us, and that was a fantastic shot.

Four geobloggers at a geologically spectacular place.

Four geobloggers at a geologically spectacular place.

So that’s us atop Dee Wright Observatory with North and Middle Sisters as a backdrop. Outstanding.

Now, something I know for truth is that flip-flops and a’a lava don’t mix. I grew up around this stuff. It’s vicious and will cut you. One unguarded instant and bam! You’re bleeding. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take when I’m forced to do geology in flip-flops. I did fine until I stepped on to a boulder of it to get a shot of a particular feature, and slid ever-so-slightly stepping off. I grazed my big toe joint where it joins the foot, just a light brush, and the next thing I knew, it looked like a slaughterhouse. It didn’t hurt a single bit, the cut was ridiculously tiny, but it bled like a scalp wound. So there was moi, dripping blood, shuffling back to the first aid kit for another antiseptic wipe and a band-aid. Yes, I felt like a doofus. But I was back on the rocks in no time.

Moi posing with benchmark.

Moi posing with benchmark.

This photo amuses me, because you can see some examples of my war wounds.

Mah wounds.

Mah wounds.

Yes, I swell like a balloon any time something bites my legs. But the swelling was actually going down at that point. I’d baked myself in the sun, and the heat seemed to help a bit. So, onward!

Our next stop was Proxy Falls. This is a world-class beautiful waterfall, with a longish hike to get there. Anne decided we’d go to the top of the Collier lava flow, which is a tiny distance in, and then I could decide how much further we’d go, because flip-flops. But I figured I’d make it just fine. It’s a decently-maintained trail, and I could’ve grabbed a stick if I’d needed.

Ermahgerd! Ah shtick!

Ermahgerd! Ah shtick!

No, seriously, those are community sticks. Says so right on the stick.

Community schtick.

Community schtick.

Don’t ask me why that was so amusing. It just was.

So anyway, off to the top of the flow we went. Now, understand something: this flow is only 1,500 years old or so. It’s a baby. But it’s got ginormous old-growth trees hanging out all over it. There’s a reason for that involving outburst floods and other features, and I will someday tell you the story, but for now, just gaze in wonder as Anne and Chris show you how huge these trees are.

Bloody big tree.

Bloody big tree.

It’s bleedin’ enormous. I think that tree merits the designation maclargehuge.

Now, by this point, we were a considerable distance along the trail, and when your flip-flops have sneaker tread, a hiking trail is no tough challenge, so we went the distance. People. Proxy Falls is gorgeous. And hydrogeologically interesting. I’ll show you why someday: for now, enjoy Chris and Anne showing it off.

Anne, Chris, and Proxy Falls.

Anne, Chris, and Proxy Falls.

So that was utterly enchanting, and then we visited a lost spring, which Anne found, and my trusty flip-flops got me through another trek in the woods without undue incident. We ended our day at Takoda’s Restaurant. People. If you’re ever in the area of Takoda’s Restaurant, go to it forthwith. I wanted to ask them if they had a room upstairs where I could stay until I’d worked my way through their menu. Incredibly tasty.

And right next door is Harbick’s Country Store, where you could get nearly anything at a reasonable price. I zipped over before dinner and bought a selection of things with which to treat yellowjacket stings, in the spirit of scientific inquiry. I can report that Anbesol, despite being a topical anesthetic, is unable to cope. Hydrocortisone cream does nothing until the next day, when the pain is gone and the buggers are itching vigorously. Campho-Phenique, which I hadn’t encountered since childhood, doesn’t solve the pain, but seems to calm it a bit, and it’s antiseptic as well, which is a bonus. Very nice stuff. An extremely hot soak, a bit o’ Campho, plus two Benadryl, and I was basically unconscious and feeling great that night.

So, despite yellowjackets and rough lava, that was a fantastic day. We all had a blast, and it was an honor to ferry around a car full of amazing geobloggers. I’m so glad I got that opportunity!

Anne and Chris had to leave somewhat early the next day, so Lockwood and I were on our own. That’s never a problem for us. We headed out to investigate McDowell Creek County Park, which was rumored to have spectacular waterfalls. Oh, honey, does it ever! And it has a trail that’s very kind to flip-flopped feet. Bonus: the flip-flops allowed me to go wading for better shots, and there’s nothing like a good scramble through freezing cold water on a hot day. Glorious!

There’s also some extremely amusing misspelled graffiti:

Pro tip for graffiti artists: spell-check before scribbling.

Pro tip for graffiti artists: spell-check before scribbling.

(Says “You’ve gotta fall before you fly, so spread your wings and sore.”)

Props for using the correct form of your. Shame about the sore. Lockwood’s actually threatening to get “Spread Your Wings and Sore” tattooed on himself now. I think he should go for it. If any of you want to design some appropriate graphics, that would be awesome.

Now, I won’t leave you without a glimpse of a waterfall. This one’s a bit meta: Lockwood photographing me photographing Majestic Falls.

Moi at Majestic.

Moi at Majestic.

So that was a delightful, easy loop, and then we returned to Corvallis and went to our favorite Italian restaurant, Pastini. Reasonable prices, and zomg I’ve never had better Italian dressing on a salad. I wanted to take home a bucket of it. So good.

That ended our geoadventure. I zipped over to Suzanne’s on my way home. She’s one of my favorite people in the universe, and I’m glad I had time to spend a couple of hours with her and Token, who is one of the only lap dogs I find myself loving. We had good times, then it was home to my kitty, and to sleep excessively. Oy. Whatta trip!

Thank you Anne, Chris, Lockwood and Suzanne for making this trip one of the best ever. Love you all! And you, my darlings, I shall show my appreciation for you with many enchanting photos very soon. But right now, it’s time to pass out again. Hasta!

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Chris Rowan

    A lovely write-up of a great trip. It was lovely to finally meet you Dana – and thanks so much for doing all the driving!

  2. 2
    rq

    Your courage and bravery in the face of such trials (OMG! Flip-flops!) is commendable, and I reserve this moment of standing ovation for you.
    Yes, the write-up is fantastic, and I loved every word of it! Vicarious geogallivanting rocks.
    Now you better deliver more photos. Of nature, geology, other awesomeness, whatever – photos. I demand photos! :)

  3. 3
    heliconia

    I’m dying to know where you buy your flip-flops!

  4. 4
    Trebuchet

    Please tell me you weren’t driving in thongs flip-flops! Not safe!

    Sounds like a great trip, other than the yellowjacket thing. I fear them, five stings would have knocked me right out.

  5. 5
    kevinalexander

    (Says “You’ve gotta fall before you fly, so spread your wings and sore.”)

    Sharpie with an autocorrect. I have one of those.

  6. 6
    Lithified Detritus

    What a great trip! Awesome geology and great companions. Once again I’m envious, except for the bit with the yellowjacket.

    McKenzie Pass/Dee Wright was one of the places I visited When I took a volcanoes class that involved traveling in WA, OR, & a bit of CA some years ago. I knew that it was going to be a great class when the list of required materials included “A high ground clearance four wheel drive vehicle.”

    Coming down from Dee Wright pretty much finished off the brakes on my Jeep, though. Fortunately, a garage in Bend was able to get me back on the road pretty quickly, and even resisted the temptation to gouge an out-of-towner.

    And I second rq – more pictures!

  7. 7
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    So no earthquake or anything then? I had been wondering. Y’all are just too fantastic, as is the pictured geology.

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